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Tornado and Earth Awareness

by Terri Gregory, SSEC Public Information Specialist
May 1999

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Outreach and Education

In the News Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson proclaimed April 20–26 Tornado Awareness Week. SSEC researchers helped get the word out. John Mecikalski provided material for a tip on tornadoes by Brian Mattmiller of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Office of News and Public Affairs. It garnered interest from the Wisconsin News Network, a syndicate that provides pieces to commercial radio stations across the state.

Weather Guys Steve Ackerman (SSEC and AOS) and Jon Martin (AOS) appeared on WHA Radio during the noon call-in show Thursday, April 22. The show focused on tornado awareness, and guest host Jim Packard did his homework, providing vignettes on tornado forecasting woes and asking hard questions. Steve and Jon answered Jim’s and the audience’s questions on safety and gave useful tips that had the ring of truth based on experience, like, don’t try to outrun a tornado; it changes direction unexpectedly and quickly.

For more information, follow the links below.

SSEC’s work on MODIS, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, was covered in a Earth Day tips that went to state and regional news media. MODIS will provide a new “long-term record, in unprecedented detail,” of ocean currents, clouds and land formations. MODIS is scheduled for launch on Terra, the first of NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites, in summer 1999.

The Tower Construction listed in “Campus readies for more construction,” Wisconsin Week, April 28, refers to SSEC’s MODIS antenna, to be constructed on the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Building. Program manager Fred Best said that the tower will rise 40 feet from the roof of the penthouse, the very top of the AOSS Building, and will be surmounted by a radome (white round covering) 18 feet in diameter. The radome covers the antenna which tracks Terra.

Researcher Liam Gumley said that the MODIS antenna construction and data gathering is funded by NASA as part of a network of such antennas to cover all of the U.S. and to complement NASA’s own antenna. SSEC’s antenna will cover most of the U.S. and southern Canada. “The antenna takes in data at 15 megabits per second as the satellite passes overhead,” said Liam. The MODIS spatial resolution is 1 km; it provides 36 bands of information, visible through the infrared, enabling one instrument to do the work of several. The current polar orbiting satellite AVHRR imaging instrument provides only 5 bands of data. MODIS, said Liam, allows “simultaneous measurement of many different characteristics of Earth’s surface.” Terra, Liam added, “is the most complex remote sensing spacecraft ever launched into Earth orbit.” NASA is funding SSEC’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies to provide imagery and products and make them available on the Web for public and research community to view and use. They should be ready by the end of this year.

In Print

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American Scientist

Composite Imagery

American Scientist magazine used four composite images from SSEC’s Web site to illustrate “Globe Watching.” Editor Michael Szpir called them “better than the weather channel” and used them as examples of “planetary phenomena” in an article which quickly focused on watching the earth from the Lagrange point, proposed to be done by the Triana satellite in late 2000.
Forecast Systems Laboratory

NOAA’s Forecast Systems Laboratory in Colorado uses Vis5D in their own scientific visualization program. FSL Forum, February 1999, noted that FSL modified Vis5D to work with other Weather Forecast Office advanced applications. They use Vis5D because its Application Program Interface allows “system developers to include Vis5D as a visualization subsystem of other systems.” They also like its “superior animation capabilities.” Vis5D is also preferred for its free availability, its established user base of meteorologists, and its ability to render objects quickly.



Capital Times education reporter Gwen Carleton covered UW-Madison’s Internet2 presentation. Her article on March 31 notes the demonstrations, highlighting Tom Whittaker’s VISITView demo. She was particularly taken with the ability to contact “students in a distant classroom” [Steve Ackerman's] and have them answer directly on the images Tom was showing. She also noted Bill HIbbard’s VisAD demo, allowing “researchers at different locations [to]… use the new Net to work on three-dimensional models simultaneously.” She noted that “about 100 UW scientists, administrators and computer experts gathered” on March 30 to learn how Internet2, a new, high-speed network links research institutions nationwide.

Tropical Cyclones

Author Patrick J. Fitzpatrick includes SSEC research in a new reference work, Natural Disasters: Hurricanes. To be published by ABC-CLIO, the work summarizes all hurricanes in the past century and covers important advances in hurricane forecasting. In the chapter of biographies of prominent hurricane researchers, he includes Chris Velden. In a chapter discussing organizations which conduct hurricane forecasts or research, he describes CIMSS. And he mentions McIDAS in a chapter that chronicles major hurricane research developments. Patrick is assistant professor of meteorology at Jackson State University and is active in programs educating young people about meteorology. The book will come out in September 1999.

Outreach and Education

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Discovery World

SSEC Outreach

CIMSS researcher Bob Aune delighted visitors to Milwaukee’s Discovery World Museum on Saturday, April 10, as part of Weather Day, a joint venture with WTMJ-Channel 4. Bob demonstrated Vis5D in Discovery World’s TechnoJungle to more than 1200 museum visitors. According to Discovery World’s Tom Derenne, not only were museum attendees pleased with Bob's Vis5D demo, but “the meteorology team from WTMJ-Channel 4 was very impressed with the Vis5D technology and inquired about getting it for their Weather Center.”

Rose Pertzborn and Sanjay Limaye of SSEC’s outreach office work with Discovery World to increase exposure of Wisconsin children to science through teachers’ workshops and other activities.

Direct comments, questions, and information about other SSEC media appearances to SSEC's Public Information Officer. For information about past media appearances, visit the SSEC In the News page.